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Stuart O'Grady (Orica GreenEdge) admitted to taking EPO before the 1998 Tour de France, telling The Herald Sun that "Leading into the Tour, I made a decision."
O'Grady announced his retirement from competitive cycling on Monday, a day after completing this year's Tour de France. It had been expected that he would continue into the 2014 season, but his retirement came just days before a report by the French Senate revealed that he had returned a suspicious sample during the 1998 Tour.
"I sourced it (EPO) myself. There was no one else involved. It didn't involve the team in any way," he told The Herald Sun.
"I just had to drive over the border and buy it at any pharmacy. The hardest part of all this is I did it for two weeks before the Tour de France. I used extremely cautious amounts because I'd heard a lot of horror stories and did the absolute minimum of what I hoped would get me through. When the Festina Affair happened, I smashed it, got rid of it and that was the last I ever touched it."
"That's the hardest thing to swallow out of all this - it was such a long time ago and one very bad judgement is going to taint a lot of things and people will have a lot of questions."
O'Grady won a stage and wore yellow in the 1998 Tour.
He rode with the French team Gan that year and later went onto forge a career as one of the most consistent one day riders of his generation, culminating in a Paris-Roubaix title. He joined Orica GreenEdge in their 2012 debut season.
"After my first Tour (in 1997) when I was dropped after 5km on a mountain day and you're questioning what the hell I am doing in this sport, you're not anywhere near competitive at something you're supposed to be pretty good at."
"It wasn't systematic doping, I wasn't trying to deceive people, I was basically trying to survive in what was a very grey area."
In an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews late last year, O’Grady said, "I'm just very lucky, very fortunate that the teams I was involved in that it [doping] was never an option. It was never on the table. I think that has a lot to do with the people around you and the team bosses - they had a very different mentality to some others."